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Iraq police crack down on kidnappings in east
by Staff Writers
Baquba, Iraq (AFP) Dec 14, 2014

Britain confirms 'hundreds' of extra trainers for Iraq
London (AFP) Dec 13, 2014 - Britain is likely to increase the number of its forces in Iraq on a training mission to "the very low hundreds", Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in comments published by the Daily Telegraph Saturday.

The forces will be training Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting militants from the Islamic State (IS) group and are set to be joined by a small "force protection" deployment who will defend them, Fallon added.

"We have not finalised numbers yet -- obviously we have got a lot of kit back from Afghanistan that we can make available -- but we are talking very low hundreds," he told the newspaper.

Britain currently has some 50 personnel in Iraq training Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Fallon last month signalled an increase in the number of British forces in Iraq but this is the first confirmation of numbers.

He told the Telegraph that they would be based at four locations -- one in Kurdish territory and three others closer to Baghdad.

They are likely in particular to be training local forces on bomb disposal techniques, sharing expertise gained while fighting in Afghanistan.

Britain is taking part in US-led air strikes aimed at driving IS jihadists out of significant parts of Iraq but is not joining strikes on targets in Syria.

It was one of the main members of the US-led "coalition of the willing" which invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq, faced with voters weary of war after 13 years in Afghanistan who go to the polls for a general election in six months.

Police operations in Iraq's eastern region of Diyala have led to three hostages being freed and the dismantling of several extortion gangs, the local police chief said on Sunday.

Kidnapping for ransom in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country is a phenomenon that has grown to such an extent that the government has publicly declared tackling it would be one of its priorities.

"Kidnappings are a crime -- we deal with them as we deal with terrorism," Diyala province police chief Lieutenant General Jamil al-Shammari told reporters.

"We managed over the past 24 hours to free three people who had been kidnapped thanks to good tip-offs that led us to their captors," he said.

Shammari said a series of operations had reduced the number of kidnappings in Diyala, an ethnically mixed province where the security forces, backed by Iran and Shiite militias, recently notched up significant victories against the Islamic State group.

While some abductions are a direct result of the sectarian tension that has grown since jihadists took over part of Iraq this year, others are the work of extortion gangs that have prospered in the confusion.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently announced the creation of special crisis cell to tackle kidnappings, which Baghdad's top security official said were a greater threat to the capital's security than the jihadists.

Thousands of people fearful of kidnappings have been forced to leave their homes or because they lost everything they had in paying a ransom.

The militias that have helped government troops defend the country against IS fighters have been blamed for abductions and other abuses in areas they control.

However, many kidnappings are also carried out by criminals posing as members of the security forces or militias.

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